Why we must not rule out legal action

PUBLISHED: 11:59 16 January 2008 | UPDATED: 21:08 26 October 2009

Grant Shapps MP

Grant Shapps MP

HOSPITAL campaigners have taken the first step in their legal challenge to the decision to move all major services to the Lister. Members of the Hospital SOS Taskforce have agreed to get expert advice as to whether there are sufficient grounds to launch

HOSPITAL campaigners have taken the first step in their legal challenge to the decision to move all major services to the Lister.

Members of the Hospital SOS Taskforce have agreed to get expert advice as to whether there are sufficient grounds to launch a judicial review.

We are now looking for solicitors, barristers and legal executives with experience of judicial review proceedings to form our legal team.

The move follows an emergency conference call meeting last week.

It is not a step which has been taken lightly.

The taskforce feels there are a number of areas which merit further investigation.

This includes challenging why the Hatfield Superhospital option was not included in the recent consultation - and even why instead of it being a contest between the Lister in Stevenage and WGC's QE2, it was not a fight between Hatfield and the Lister.

Taskforce members were also far from convinced the financial arguments stacked up.

Not enough weight had been placed on possible changes to the county's grant allocations from Government.

No account had been taken either of the massive difference in running costs between a new-build Hatfield Hospital and an aging seventies tower-block-based Lister.

These and other question marks were unearthed by the taskforce's evidence and judicial review group, headed up by borough councillor Nigel Quinton.

It followed detailed talks with a group of health consultants.

The taskforce has three months to lodge any judicial review.

A final decision on whether to launch this legal challenge will be made once our legal team, appointed by hospital SOS campaigners, has reported back.

Anyone with the relevant experience is invited to get in touch with this office or direct to Grant Shapps.

When the Government told us that we were getting a half billion pound superhospital in Hatfield prior to the last election, they still intended to provide services like maternity separately at the Lister in Stevenage.

Now that the flawed consultation has decided to axe the QE2 they don't plan to leave us with so much as a midwife- led maternity unit.

They want Welwyn Hatfield to take 10s of thousands more residents, but manage without a major hospital and that's a political scandal."

That is why we're now actively considering a judicial review into the whole sorry state of our hospital healthcare provision.

- Grant Shapps MP

Why was the Lister chosen when the QE2 was preferred? It seems to me that the consultation was a waste of time and money.

I am very concerned as cancer had not be been considered in great depth and the new hospital was supposed to be a cancer hospital, so what service are we going to end up with?

A few weeks ago the Lister had to send patients to the QE2 from A&E as they were so busy, so how are they going to cope if the QE2 has no A&E?

I hope we are going to keep maternity, as the QE2 has two birthing pools.

One of my grandsons was born a year ago, with his cord around his neck. If my daughter had had to go to Lister would she have made it before the cord had strangled the baby?

- Vicki Adkins MBE.

The Primary Care Trust's consultation was flawed and incompetent.

It failed to give proper consideration to the Hatfield Hospital option, it was utterly disorganised in its promotion of public meetings about the consultation, and it ignored the clear public vote for a major hospital in Welwyn Hatfield.

Of course, we would much rather not take the Primary Care Trust into court, but its incompetence has left us no choice but to explore this option."

- Mike Hobday.

The consultation has been a complete waste of time. We have had the real choice - Hatfield vs Lister - denied us.

No amount of after the event justification for the exclusion of Hatfield can hide the fact that it was excluded without proper analysis.

Aside from the location of the major hospital, too little thought has yet been put into the detail of what will be provided on each site or how services will work across the county.

Plans for maternity and cancer services are especially vague. We need to see real commitment from the PCT to give the proposed local hospital and urgent care centres sufficient resource to meet local needs. We need a maternity unit and intermediate care beds at the least.

- Nigel Quinton.

Editor's comment

THE decision whether or not to seek a legal decision will be a hugely difficult one.

Most of us believe centralising acute services is the right way forward.

And we don't want to cause undue upset to the staff and residents in this part of the county by delaying things still further.

But we are also concerned that the Hatfield option was not one of those included in the consultation process.

This, I believe, is a massive opportunity missed.

Future generations will look back at us and wonder why on earth we could let such an obvious solution to 21st century health provision slip by.

It would not be fair on them if we left any stone unturned.

Who is to blame for this travesty will, no doubt, be debated over the coming months and years.

I hope they can sleep at night; on reflection, they probably can.

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